Congressman Garamendi, Senators Feinstein & Boxer, & Other Delta House Delegation Members Introduce Legislation Protecting Culture, History & Economy of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman John Garamendi (D-Walnut Creek, CA), with original co-sponsors Reps. George Miller (D-Martinez, CA), Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento, CA), Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton, CA), and Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena, CA), is introducing historic legislation to protect the culture, history, and economy of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta estuary. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
The legislation, H.R. 6329 and S. 3927, would establish the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area to protect and promote the cultural, historical, and natural assets of the region. The legislation would authorize $20,000,000 ($2,000,000 in any fiscal year) to the California Delta Protection Commission to implement the National Heritage Area, with up to 50 percent federal cost-share for improvement projects. Private property owners and tribes are explicitly protected in the legislation and capable of opting out of any recommendations. State water procurement policy is not within the mission statement of the National Heritage Area.
“For 33 years my family has lived in the Delta. We love its unique character and history. Its waterways, communities, farms, ecosystem together form a valuable and fragile part of California,” said Congressman Garamendi. “This legislation will give local communities and individuals the tool to protect the Delta.”
“This is a key step towards the proper recognition of the Bay-Delta. Our region is critically important to California, and to the nation as a whole, on par with the Everglades and the Chesapeake Bay,” Congressman Miller said.
“The San-Joaquin Delta is central to the success of the Sacramento region,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “For the many farmers who depend on it, the numerous species it supports, and all of the residents who call it home, we must work to protect this piece of California’s history.”
“Congressman Garamendi's bill (H.R. 6239) will provide a valuable opportunity for the County of Sacramento and other Delta Counties to work closely with residents to preserve and enhance the unique culture, history, agricultural heritage and economy of our Delta communities,” said Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli, chair of the California Delta Protection Commission. “This legislation will benefit not only this region but also our state and nation as it will help protect the rare and unique assets of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.”
“The Delta has a significance far beyond that of a plumbing fixture. It has a vital yet threatened ecology, economy and is deserved of this effort by our leadership in Washington, DC.,” said Contra Costa Supervisor Mary Piepho. “The Delta is not only an important resource, it is a threatened one. The federal NHA effort is a first step toward enhancing not only the Delta and its ecology, but also one that we hope will heighten awareness in others of its importance.”
“A National Heritage Area designation for the Delta will help improve the economic sustainability of the region through a variety of local efforts, including expanded agricultural processing and enhanced recreational opportunities,” said Yolo County Supervisor Jim Provenza. “The designation will allow the Delta Protection Commission to more effectively work with local stakeholders to move important economic development efforts forward.”
“The Congressional designation of The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta as a National Heritage Area is a critical step in the economic revitalization of the region,” said Solano County Supervisor Michael Reagan. “We love this beautiful area and are eager to share it with others. This designation will help to brand the historical significance and attractions available in the area into an international destination for tourism and recreation.”
“San Joaquin County is pleased that the congressional delegation representing the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Counties has introduced this companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill will provide a good foundation for collaboration in the Delta,” said Larry Ruhstaller, Vice-Chairman, San Joaquin Board of Supervisors. By forging new federal, state and local partnerships, we will recognize, protect, restore, and maintain the many valuable natural, aesthetic, cultural, and historic attributes in the Delta, including the many public benefits of Delta agriculture, Delta communities, and the flood control and other public infrastructure so important to our regional, state and national economies. We look forward to working with our delegation to move this bill forward to passage.”
Congressman Garamendi served as President Bill Clinton’s Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Interior Department from 1995-1998, a post that gave him the opportunity to help better protect the Delta.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is the most extensive inland delta in the world. Its approximately 60 islands are protected by 1,100 miles of levees, and are home to 3,500,000 residents, including 2,500 family farmers. The Delta offers recreational opportunities to the two million Californians that visit the Delta each year for boating, fishing, hunting, visiting historic sites, and viewing wildlife. It provides habitat for more than 750 species of plants and wildlife.
By 1492, the Delta supported the largest settlement of Native Americans in North America. The Delta was the gateway to the gold fields in 1849, after which Chinese workers built hundreds of miles of levees throughout the waterways of the Delta to make its rich peat soils available for farming and to control flooding. Significant migrations of Japanese, Italians, Germans, Portuguese, Dutch, Greeks, South Asians, and other immigrants called the Delta home.